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With the Occupy Wall Street movement in its 24th day, there are still real questions as to what these people are protesting against. Yeah I get it: anti-greed, anti-bailout, anti-corruption, anti-establishment. They want jobs, free education, and list goes on and on. But that’s what I see as one of the main problems with the movement. The protesters don’t seem to have any idea about what they want as a group. With no central leadership these protesters seem to be protesting more out of frustration, then out of trying to further a vision of how things should be run.
The anti-greed notion is something that I get. No one wants to hear that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is making $85 million a year, while he or she is living on food stamps. I agree, there are serious problems in our economy. However, so do the majority of the companies on Wall Street. They would love nothing more then to be hiring more people and expanding their business in the U.S. Maybe these protesters should be protesting about outsourcing or trying to pressure the U.S. government to put pressure on China to appreciate its currency. If this happened, China would have less of an exchange rate advantage when it comes to exports to the U.S. and it would be more economical to produce the things we need right here in America. This would bring back good salaried union manufacturing jobs to the U.S.; something these protesters are asking for indirectly – jobs.
Another popular grievance of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the fact that big banks got bailouts with taxpayer dollars, when everyday Americans are left to fend for themselves. The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t take into account the complexities of our modern financial system. There are some economists who disagree with the bank bailouts, but the prevailing thought in economic circles is, if these big banks were not bailed out things would have been much much worse for everyone, including the protesters. You and me – average Americans – rely on these banks everyday. Even indirectly without the bailouts the businesses and services that we use, like hospitals and schools, would not continue to function because of the lack of capital liquidity. Capital liquidity in the financial markets allows private institutions like hospitals to stay open or public ones, like states, counties, or cities, to borrow to build infrastructure.
Now if you followed all of that, great. But if I lost some of you in my greatly simplified economic analysis, that’s the point I’m trying to make. These protests – while coming from a good and sincere place, are mostly misplaced anger. From what I have seen, these protests are mostly based on misconceptions about how the world functions in reality. All of these issues and policies, if they were retooled to meet the protesters demands, would call for a fundamental restructuring of American society and the world economy, something no one person or group is in a position to do. These protests are spreading to other cities around the country, capturing the general discontent of the masses, that are enduring high unemployment and a tough economy. But the issues and policies that the protesters are purporting to rally against, are not the source of their problems. Wall Street can do little to change the situation, and does not have the incentive to do so. Even when Kanye West stands outside their offices and stands with the masses.